Claremont Insider: Claremont's Finest

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Claremont's Finest

Centinel over at the Foothill Cities Blog noted that the Claremont PD was hard at work this past week.

Centinel picked up on a Daily Bulletin article about the Claremont PD ticketing motorists who honked their horns in response to anti-Iraq War protesters at Indian Hill Blvd. and Arrow Hwy. last Friday.

According to the article:

Each Friday afternoon since the 2003 start of the war in Iraq, about 20 people - most holding signs with anti-war slogans - have congregated at the intersection to protest U.S. foreign policy.

The protesters are often encouraged by passing motorists who honk their horns or wave in support.

On Friday, police ticketed three of those motorists, alleging excessive honking.

Police say the honking was creating an unsafe environment. The protesters dispute that it posed any danger, with vigil coordinator Jim Lamb claiming that "police cars racing out" in order to ticket motorists was more hazardous.

"I was kind of amazed that they saw the reality there - that we'd been living with all this time - as suddenly a dangerous situation," Lamb said.

Claremont police Capt. Gary Jenkins said police responded to the intersection Friday after officers were flagged down by a person who felt the situation at the intersection was "becoming dangerous and unsafe."

Police issued tickets only to drivers who laid on their horns through the intersection, not those who beeped briefly in support, Jenkins said.

"Our focus is on the traffic safety," Jenkins said. "We are not focusing on any group or cause. It's completely irrelevant."

A reader also sent us a link to the Bulletin article, saying:

What! The Claremont police don't have enough speeders to contend with so now they have to ticket honkers? [Claremont Police Chief Paul] Cooper is a joke!!

The Claremont Courier also had an article on the ticketing. One question: What constitutes excessive honking? Sounds like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of hard-core pornography: "I know it when I see it."

Or in this case, hear it.

According to the Courier's article, by Tony Krickl, some of the motorists plan on fighting their tickets in court:

Duane Welsch also received a ticket for excessive honking. She was told that complaints had increased about the noise and that honking posed a safety hazard for students wanting to cross the street.

“It wasn’t apparent that there was a safety hazard,” Ms. Welsch said. “It just seems ridiculous to me.”

Those who were cited hope to work out an agreement with city officials to get the tickets rescinded. If no agreement is reached, they plan to fight the tickets in court because they believe that the citations violate their freedom of speech or were unclear on defining the terms of “excessive honking.”

Good luck challenging the tickets using the freedom of speech defense. This is the Grand Duchy of Claremont, not the U.S. We've all seen how much respect the city and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho have for the First Amendment.